KAMPALA - As Uganda's plan to develop nuclear energy takes shape, the country will be required to develop her human resource capacity to take up opportunities.
According to the technical paper on nuclear development, which New Vision has seen, the Government plans to set up a specialised nuclear energy institute in the country.
The technical paper was developed by both the energy and education ministries, alongside the Atomic Energy Council and National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC).
Other institutions that took part in the development include Makerere University, National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited and the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).
Just like the Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK) is for specialised oil and gas training, the nuclear energy training centre will serve the nuclear component.
According to ministry plans, the institute will be equipped with modern nuclear energy training equipment and assimilators and facilities such as staff quarters.
Russia and China will develop Uganda's nuclear energy plants and these have been asked to build training centres.
If both China and Russia are awarded deals, that means both will be required to establish nuclear energy training centres.
The developments were confirmed by Sarah Nafuna, the head of the Nuclear Energy Unit at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.
In an interview, she explained that for Uganda to benefit from the nuclear energy developments, the country has to train its citizens to take up these opportunities.
The requirement to train, she said, is also part of the local content regulations for Ugandans to be employed in the sector.
"Two universities have started on the programmes, but those are not enough. We need a specialised training institute for nuclear energy in the country," she said.
According to Nafuna, training Ugandans abroad would be costly as opposed to establishing a specialised institute in the country. She made the remarks during an interview with New Vision at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.
The Minister of State for Mineral Development, Sarah Opendi, said establishing a specialised nuclear energy training institute will also increase Uganda's influence as a regional education centre.
Just like UPIK, which is the only specialised oil and gas training institute in the region, she said, the nuclear institute will be the first of its kind in the region.
"We will attract students not only from Uganda but also from neighbouring countries. Having these facilities will help the country develop a big human resource capital to compete in the region," she said.
Civil society backs move
James Muhindo from the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) backed the proposal.
"Once an institute is set up in Uganda, it will open doors for Ugandans from marginalised communities to benefit from training. This is a very good initiative," he said.
He also supported nuclear energy development, saying it is in line with the national green growth strategy. He explained that the world is undergoing an energy shift, from using fossil (oil and gas) to renewable energy.
According to capital budgeting and financing options between Uganda and Russia, the paper says, Russia will consider to set up "a centre of nuclear science and technology project," in Uganda. The project will be geared towards establishing a multipurpose centre at a suitable site in Uganda for nuclear training, research and development.
In addition, the technical paper says the centre will have facilities for the production of radioisotopes for cancer management.
The centre will also have an irradiation facility for improving the shelf life of agricultural produce, sterilisation of flowers for export and improving agricultural productivity through research.
Under the Uganda-China nuclear energy development project, the Chinese have instead offered to set up "a Research Reactor Project."
The project, according to the technical paper, is aimed at establishing a facility at one of the public universities in Uganda for nuclear training, research and development.
The document says, "the facility will be used in the production of radioisotopes for the cancer centres in Uganda and Africa."
Additionally, the Chinese have suggested offering another project, dubbed an irradiation project, for reducing post-harvest loss of agricultural produce by improving the shelf life of the produce through irradiation.
According to the Government, China wants the irradiation facility established in one of the industrial and business parks in Uganda.
An estimated 3,926 personnel will be required to develop the first nuclear energy plant in the country, a ministry of energy survey has indicated. These will be needed from the pre-project activities until the commissioning of the plant.
According to a technical paper on human resource for nuclear development, which New Vision has seen, 73% of the human resource demands will be for artisans, whereas 27% will be for professionals.
Once Uganda fails to produce the required engineers, the country will be compelled to hire.
According to the technical paper, the country will need specialists in sciences and humanities.
In the nuclear field, the energy ministry will need nuclear engineers, nuclear scientists and technology experts.
In the other engineering fields, the ministry will need civil and electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and environmental engineers.
The Government will also need experts in physics, chemistry, biochemistry, geology, geophysics, environment and metrology, seismology and geographic information system.
In humanities, professionals in the areas of business, law, public relations and communication, human resource management, statistics and economics will be on-demand for nuclear development.
For instance, the technical team says during the pre-project and project feasibility phase, an estimated 138 professionals in the above fields are needed.
During the project development phase, the document says, 63 professionals and five technicians will be needed.
A total of 114 professionals and 20 technicians will be needed for project management.
However, the construction, operation and maintenance phases will need more human power than all the above stages combined.
During construction, 438 professionals, 718 technicians and 1,780 craftsmen will be needed for the first nuclear plant.
At the operation and maintenance phases, an estimated 600 professionals, 30 technicians and 120 craftsmen will be required.